Glasgow Rangers defender Leon Balogun will be an integral part of Steven Gerrard’s plans for beating Benfica in the Europa League, with the Light Blues centre-back keeping Sam Cosgrove in his back pocket throughout the game against Aberdeen at the weekend.
Rangers welcome Benfica to Ibrox on Thursday night and will be looking to extend their unbeaten start to the season, with the Gers throwing away a two-goal lead to draw with the 10-man Portuguese giants in Lisbon last time out as Filip Helander had a night to forget in Portugal.
Gerrard’s side stormed 11 points clear of Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership, after goals from Ryan Kent, Kemar Roofe, Scott Arfield and James Tavernier helped the Bears beat Aberdeen at home.
The result keeps the Gers atop the league table with a healthy lead over their arch-rivals, whilst Benfica were beaten by Braga in a 3-2 defeat before the international break, which saw them slip to third in the table with two wins from their last five fixtures in all competitions.
Rafa Silva struck the second of the Eagles’ goals in the second half to keep them in the game against the Gers, before Darwin Nunez scored in stoppage time to ensure that Jorge Jesus’ side will be brimming with confidence when they travel to Ibrox on Thursday night.
Silva has scored three goals and supplied four assists in ten games so far this season, as he continues to shine for the Portuguese side since his arrival from Braga, now with a tally of 40 goals and 26 assists to his name.
Gerrard will be well aware of the threat the right winger poses and will know that neutralising the 27-year-old will be pivotal to securing victory, but he should be buoyed by the fact that Balogun played an instrumental part as the Gers kept their 17th clean sheet in all competitions against Aberdeen.
Per SofaScore, the 32-year-old was a ballast at the back, combining with Connor Goldson to restrict the Dons to just three shots on target throughout the game, as he made two interceptions, won three out of four ground duels, was fouled twice, and won the penalty which was converted by the club captain, showing he was a useful attacking asset as well as he took 83 touches of the ball and completed 68 out of 76 passes (89%).
Gerrard made no attempt to disguise his delight after Balogun returned to the starting line-up against Lech Poznan in the Europa League, describing him as a “fantastic” beast who is “very quick,” as quoted by The Herald.
In contrast, it’s fair to say that Helander has struggled for consistency so far this season, whilst he was at fault for two of the goals against the Eagles.
No doubt the Ibrox boss will be hoping that Balogun can continue his fine form in recent weeks when Rangers face Benfica at Ibrox this Thursday.
AND in other news, Zungu beware: Glasgow Rangers midfielder Scott Arfield sends Steven Gerrard timely reminder…
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